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Preview: Crusaders v Chiefs

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Wednesday, February 19, 2014    Sportal.co.nz    Getty Images

HEAD TO HEAD: Played: 23, Crusaders 15, Chiefs 8

LAST TIME: Chiefs 20 beat Crusaders19 (Semi-final), July 27, 2013, Waikato Stadium

WALKING WOUNDED:
Not wounded but missing on sabbatical is first five-eighths Dan Carter for the Crusaders while captain and No.8 Kieran Read is still preparing after his delayed return to action after last year's All Blacks tour. For the Chiefs fullback contenders Robbie Robinson and Tom Marshall are both not considered while top flankers Sam Kane and Tanerau Latimer are also out due to injuries. Hookers Hika Elliott and Mahonri Schwalger are still struggling with injuries.

FORM: The defending champion Chiefs were beaten by the Reds in their first warm-up game of the year but turned that around against the Blues in Rotorua in their second game. The Crusaders were comfortable winners of the Highlanders in their first practice game and they turned it out in ominous fashion against the Hurricanes last week.

WE THINK: If any motivation other than wanting to make a good start to the season was wanted then the Crusaders have plenty after their exit at the semi-final stage by the Chiefs last year. However, that is past history in the minds of most and the new look to both squads makes it a more appealing contest for many more reasons. The core of the Crusaders pack is in action for the home side, and that will be a crucial aspect in the outcome. The Chiefs are fielding an experienced backline, but it is one made up of newer elements which puts all the pressure on cohesion. Expect the home team to be a close winner in this contest.

TEAMS:

Crusaders: 1.Tim Perry, 2.Corey Flynn, 3.Owen Franks, 4.Samuel Whitelock, 5.Dominic Bird, 6.George Whitelock, 7.Richie McCaw (captain), 8.Luke Whitelock, 9.Andy Ellis, 10.Tyler Bleyendaal, 11.Nafi Tuitavake, 12.Ryan Crotty, 13.Ray Lee-Lo, 14.Johnny McNicholl, 15.Israel Dagg.

Reserves: 16.Ben Funnell, 17.Wyatt Crockett, 18.Nepo Laulala, 19.Luke Romano, 20.Matt Todd, 21.Willi Heinz, 22.Tom Taylor, 23.Rob Thompson.

Chiefs: 1.Jamie Mackintosh, 2.Rhys Marshall, 3.Ben Tameifuna, 4.Michael Fitzgerald, 5.Brodie Retallick, 6.Liam Messam, 7.Tevita Koloamatangi, 8.Kane Thompson, 9.Augustine Pulu, 10.Aaron Cruden (captain), 11.Asaeli Tikoirotuma, 12.Charlie Ngatai, 13.Robbie Fruean, 14.Tim Nanai-Williams, 15.Mils Muliaina.

Reserves: 16.Nathan Harris, 17.Pauliasi Manu, 18.Ben Afeaki, 19.Matt Symons/Liam Squire, 20.Nick Crosswell, 21.Tawera Kerr-Barlow, 22.Andrew Horrell/Anton Lienert-Brown, 23.James Lowe.

?REFEREE: Chris Pollock